The days are getting shorter. The sun hangs lower in the sky. A cool autumn breeze begins to settle in across the nation while the very first hints of Halloween make their way into neighborhoods and stores... and that means that for the 22nd year in a row, Disneyland's iconic Haunted Mansion has closed, not to return until after the New Year.
Yep, for Imagineering fans, it's the most divisive time of the year: when, yet again, Disneyland's Haunted Mansion gains a new, festive tenant, trading some of its "Grim, Grinning Ghosts" for a swirling vortex of holidays. Today, we've collected the pros and cons of Haunted Mansion Holiday. Then we'll ask you to tell us whether this fan-favorite, fan-frustrating Christmas-stylized takeover of the Mansion has overstayed its welcome...
The PROS of Haunted Mansion Holiday
1. Haunted Mansion Holiday brings a popular IP to the parks
Today, it's hard to even imagine that when The Nightmare Before Christmas debuted in 1993, Disney didn't want much to do with it. Threatening to break Walt Disney Feature Animation's already-in-progress streak of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, Disney instead opted to release The Nightmare Before Christmas under the Touchstone Pictures banner – the more "adult-oriented" studio label that Eisner had ramped up in the '80s. The film's director, Henry Selick, famously recalled, "Their biggest fear, and why it was kind of a stepchild project, [was] they were afraid of their core audience hating the film and not coming."
Obviously, a lot has changed. The Nightmare Before Christmas found its footing in the late '90s and early 2000s as a sort of enduring, Hot Topic cult classic. Re-releases, licensing tie-ins, and the film's annual appeal have made it a substantial success for the company, with Touchstone now papered over on the film's intro with a retroactively added Disney title card. Disneyland even borrows Nightmare's villain as the namesake and icon of its Halloween party, Oogie Boogie Bash.
There's no question that thirty years has turned The Nightmare Before Christmas from a "stepchild" into a very reliable, recognizable, merchandisable, and handy IP for the franchise-focused Disney. Though fans may still clamor for a permanent presence for the inter-generational favorite, Haunted Mansion Holiday allows guests to see Jack, Sally, and Oogie Boogie in animatronic form, which is pretty cool! And frankly, there's no better place or time than Disneyland's Haunted Mansion...
2. Haunted Mansion Holiday makes great sense operationally
Whether The Nightmare Before Christmas counts as a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie is one of the enduring questions of our time. Luckily, it just sort of works out that via Haunted Mansion Holiday, it can be both. Haunted Mansion Holiday typically lasts from September through January, standing in as a special offering for both Disneyland's "Halloween Time" promotion and the "Holidays at the Disneyland Resort" festivities. While you might argue that it's a better fit for one than the other, there's no question that fundamentally, it works.
Haunted Mansion Holiday also has a McRib-ness to it, becoming an annual tradition that many guests eagerly await. To say that it's popular would be an understatement. Frankly, waits for (and the popularity of) Haunted Mansion Holiday are why Disneyland's Haunted Mansion is about to undergo a queue expansion and retail space addition to begin with! As a "limited time" offering, Haunted Mansion Holiday is immensely popular, and a serves as a tremendous draw for locals to return to Disneyland each year at Halloween Time.
Speaking of which...
3. Haunted Mansion Holiday shows what Disneyland is capable of
It's sometimes said that Disneyland is the world's most popular regional theme park. Sure, it was the second most-visited park on Earth in 2022... but still, Disneyland is fundamentally still a park that caters more to regional audiences than international ones. Disneyland banks big on nostalgia, generational tradition, and initiatives to attract its "local and vocal" audiences to come back to the place they care about.
So while Disney World shies away from extensive ride overlays for fear of its once-in-a-lifetime guests missing the "real" version of the ride, Disneyland is constantly keeping its collection in flux. Without a doubt, Haunted Mansion Holiday is the most extravagant and expensive of the resort's overlays; a highlight among a fabled lineup of holiday overlays, which has included rotating offerings like "it's a small world holiday," Jingle Cruise, Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy, Luigi's Honkin' Halloween & Mater's Graveyard Jambooree, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Monsters After Dark.
So you've got to give Haunted Mansion Holiday credit – it's a fantastic overlay that completely changes the ride it inhabits. While it draws upon the best of Haunted Mansion's existing scenes and effects, we're talking about new music, new scenes, new animatronics. This is a serious work of Imagineering that's very high quality and very emblematic of Disneyland's commitment to keeping things fresh.
Of course, you don't have to dig too deep into Disney Parks Facebook or Twitter groups to hear the other side of the story... On the next page, we'll dig into the arguments against Haunted Mansion Holiday and ask for your thoughts on this divisive spooky-season overlay.